Supporters of local sharecropper memorial taking case to legislature

Sunday, August 3, 2008

CHARLESTON, Mo. — Bolstered by support from the Mississippi County Commission and a local state representative, a group seeking commemoration for a historic sharecropper protest will present their case to the Missouri Legislature this week.

Following a program conducted in front of the county war memorial outside the courthouse, the commemoration's proponents met with county commissioners during their regular meeting Thursday.

Reading from a proposed resolution, the Rev. Willie Jarrett of Charleston recalled how on Jan. 10, 1939, around 1,100 sharecroppers "took a heroic stand against injustice" in a protest along U.S. 60 and 61 near Sikeston, Mo., that "would reshape the landscape of Southeast Missouri and change government policies forever."

The sharecroppers were protesting their eviction by landowners after a New Deal program gave farmers subsidies to take land out of production to reduce supply and bring farm product prices up.

Also presented was a petition to honor the roadside demonstrators along with Owen Whitfield, a minister who organized the protest, and Thad Snow, a prominent Mississippi County landowner who opened up his land to aid the sharecroppers after they were removed from the roadside by government officials.

The petition is seeking a historical marker erected near Snow's Corner in Charleston. In addition to the markers, Jarrett said they would like to see Jan. 10 declared an official day of remembrance.

"It has great social significance for our county," said state Rep. Steve Hodges, who noted he is the descendant of a sharecropper. "I'm a great advocate of history."

Hodges said there are things that need to be worked out such as how much historical markers will cost and where the money for them will come from.

As for designating Jan. 10 as Owen Whitfield and Thad Snow Day, "I think it would have a lot more significance at the state level," Hodges said.

Hodges said the historical markers could be a draw for tourists as it was "a changing point in history in Mississippi County." He said it is possible funding could be sought through the Mississippi County Historical Society.

Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said he has lived his entire life in Mississippi County but did not know the history of Snow's Corner or who Thad Snow was.

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